On May 26th, runners from across the country will descend upon the nation’s capital for the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon. At Saucony, we’re very proud to sponsor this exciting, challenging race. Direct from the race organizers themselves, with some help from race-veteran Emily Setlack, we’ve got the insider’s tips to having success – and fun! – in Ottawa.
Not only is the Ottawa Half Marathon one of Canada’s largest half-marathons, it’s also part of Canada’s largest weekend of running, and downtown Ottawa turns into a true running mecca. Before you lace up, draw inspiration by taking in one of the world’s top 10Ks on the Saturday night before the race. “Nothing beats the atmosphere and energy surrounding races in Ottawa,” Emily tells us.
That feeling carries over into Sunday when runners of all stripes gather at the start of the half, where some of the most inspiring stories from the weekend are written. From people taking on the challenge to honour those who can’t, or participants who use the event to celebrate winning a health battle or major weight loss, the stories of success begin with everyone who decides to take that first step towards the start line.
Once underway, the course works its way around the historic city, becoming a rather grand sightseeing experience - a convenient distraction from the invigorating test of endurance that's underway. Crossing the Alexandra Bridge, with its view of the Library of Parliament, has to be one of the most epic sights in Canadian running.
And it’s not just the iconic architecture that impresses. With most of the city out to cheer on its visitors, the spectator support in the neighbourhoods along the route is just as inspiring as the scenery. “The atmosphere surrounding the race is electric,” Emily says. “You’ll have support with cheer stations along the way to help keep the spirits up when the pain sets in.”
But while it's easy to get distracted by the stunning skylines and community cheerleaders, remember to keep guard out there and stay focused on the task at hand. And we promised you insider tips, so:
Once you cross the Alexandra Bridge, and have crested the hill by the National Art Gallery (one of the few inclines on the course), the team at Run Ottawa knows that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the big crowds that line Sussex and Colonel By and think the finish line is closer than it is. They emphasize, "Keep enough gas in the tank to get to Pretoria Bridge, where you then turn back toward the finish line for one final kilometre. Now’s the time to let it all hang out."
For Emily, some pre-race prep is key. “The race this year will start at 9:00am,” she says. “It can be quite warm so be conscious of taking in fluids throughout the race and stay hydrated. There will be 12 water stations so don't panic if you miss one, but do your best to plan ahead early on the race by taking in fluid.”
“The course is fairly flat but features a number of turns,” she adds. “If possible, try to focus on taking tangents, as taking turns wide and ignoring tangents can easily add extra time. Believe in yourself and do the training so you that can trust it on race day!”
Once your race is run, make sure to set aside some time to discover all the fascinating places in Ottawa that allow you to glimpse into the city's past and future. Catch the best of the best via a quick self-guided museum tour that’s within walking distance from the finish line. Grab a coffee and walk around the newly renovated National Arts Centre before sauntering down Sussex Drive to take in an exhibit at the National Gallery. Then, if you’ve got the energy, cross the bridge to the Canadian Museum of History, which also has a great Children’s Museum.
The beauty of Ottawa in the springtime, combined with a super scenic course and incredible spectator & volunteer support, makes the Scotiabank Ottawa Half Marathon an unforgettable experience, whether it’s your first 21K event or you’re a half-marathon junkie. You can find more information about how to register, plan your weekend, or be the best cheer squad you can be on the Run Ottawa website.
Whatever the case, you’ll want to make a full weekend of it.